History of an airport: From racetrack to world destination

The new international terminal marks a major milestone for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which has seen many changes in its 87 years:

1925 Atlanta Mayor Walter Sims decides to develop an auto racetrack into an airfield, with part of it renamed Candler Field after Coca-Cola magnate Asa Candler.

1941 Delta moves its headquarters from Monroe, La., to Atlanta.

1971 The Atlanta airport is renamed the William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, after the long-serving Atlanta mayor and aviation advocate, and introduces its first international flight.

1980 The current main terminal opens. At 2.5 million square feet, it was the world’s largest air passenger terminal, designed for up to 55 million passengers a year.

1984 Fourth runway opens.

1991 Eastern Airlines shuts down, leaving Concourse C empty.

1993 ValuJet, predecessor to AirTran Airways, launches as a discount carrier.

1994 Concourse E, which includes the current international gates, opens.

1996 The main terminal atrium opens in time for Atlanta to refresh the airport’s look as the city hosts the Summer Olympics.

1997 ValuJet changes its name to AirTran Airways, following a deadly 1996 ValuJet crash in Florida.

2003 The airport is renamed Hartsfield-Jackson to include the name of the city’s first black mayor, Maynard H. Jackson. Plans are laid to also put his name on the international terminal.

Mid-2000s The airport executes a massive project to move baggage screening underground to modernize for post-9/11 security.

2006 The fifth runway opens.

2008 Delta acquires Northwest Airlines, becoming for a couple of years the world’s largest airline.

2009 Opening of the rental car center and SkyTrain people-mover to the Georgia International Convention Center and the rental car center.

2011 Southwest acquires AirTran Airways.

May 16, 2012 Hartsfield-Jackson opens its new international terminal and Concourse F, introducing a second, eastside entrance to the airport off I-75.

Sources: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, research

Kelly Yamanouchi

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